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The core American ideal of religious freedom has been put at risk. News of Park51, the proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan, has spawned protests against a religious group that simply seeks to create a meeting place and has gone out of its way to make clear that the space will be open to the entire New York community.

These protests, diatribes, and campaigns against Park51 violate the ideals of religious freedom to which our country has long aspired. The First Amendment of the Constitution states explicitly that

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The local government has so far done its part to uphold and apply these Constitutional rights. The Community Board of Lower Manhattan approved the building project 29 to 1, with 10 abstentions, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his strong support.

But individuals have taken the application of this freedom into their own hands. It would appear that more extreme voices want this right to apply only to their own religious communities, and not to others. But when one group’s freedoms are threatened, the religious freedom of all Americans is at stake.

In response to the ongoing and often radical criticism of Park51 and its leaders, we are proud to announce the launch of Religious Freedom USA. Religious Freedom USA is a new campaign to safeguard freedom of religion and mobilize Americans to support Park51 as an expression of this core American value. We invite and encourage you to join the movement. Send in a video of support, write a letter to the editor, sign our petition, help organize a local rally, or join us for an event here in New York.

Some may wonder why a Born Again Christian and a future rabbi, both under the age of 25, are working to build support for a Muslim community center. To us it seems natural: this is not simply a Muslim issue, a Jewish issue, or a Christian issue. This is an American issue, and members of all religious communities are affected by a threat to religious freedom.

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What do you think about a mosque being built near ground zero? Leave your comments below.

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